Alleged ricin plotters plead not guilty

Four alleged members of a Georgia militia charged with plotting attacks against government officials with toxic ricin and explosives pleaded not guilty at a hearing on Wednesday.
New details were revealed at a bond hearing at a federal courthouse in north Georgia including allegations that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney were part of a list of potential assassination targets by the defendants. The men were under surveillance by federal investigators for at least seven months and the arrests came just days after authorities said they had uncovered evidence that the men were trying to extract ricin from castor beans, the Associated Press reports.
Frederick Thomas, a 73-year-old who was described as the plot's ringleader, allegedly stockpiled 52 guns and 30,000 of ammunition at his home in the Georgia mountains. Defense attorneys for the men, who are between the ages of 55 and 73, indicated that they were too infirm and elderly to carry out the attacks.

Jeff Ertel, Thomas' attorney, said he would argue that his client was making idle chatter and never intended to follow through. Ertel also questioned the credibility of the confidential informant, who he said was charged with child molestation in South Carolina before cooperating with prosecutors, according to the AP.
Ertel said the informant also gave his client the $1,000 he needed to purchase the explosive from an undercover agent.
"If this is a terrorist organization, it's the worst funded terrorist organization in the world," Ertel said, the AP reports. "If not for a pushy snitch, they may not have come up with the money."
Robert McBurney, the assistant U.S. attorney, dismissed claims that the men are too old to have executed the plot.
"Age is not a barrier to the crimes these defendants are charged with," McBurney said, according to the AP. "(The men) can pull a trigger just as easily as you or I can."
McBurney also said that prosecutors had ample evidence that the men were linking their violent speech with dangerous action and he disputed assertions from defense lawyers that Thomas was collecting weapons for hunting.
"You don't hunt with a bomb," McBurney said, the AP reports. "You don't put a silencer on a gun to shoot a deer."